They didn’t stop the game after Earl Heath Miller made his 400th career catch last Sunday.
The TV announcers didn’t even mention it until he made catch No. 403, or something close to that later in the game.
Doesn’t 400 catches mean anything?
“Yeah, I guess,” said Miller.
But if you’ve followed his career, you know Miller really couldn’t care any less. So I knew Heath was lying. But it was a good lie.
“I didn’t know about it till later,” he said of the milestone.
And Heath really doesn’t care. He didn’t try to get the ball. He probably won’t even try to get the ball after his 500th catch.
Five hundred is do-able, isn’t it Heath?
“I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “But as long as I’m healthy, you know, I don’t see why not.”
And if he does, Miller won’t care. Bring up numbers to him, big numbers, and he thinks of 2009, the year he caught a career-high 76 passes. And when Miller thinks of 2009, he thinks like this:
“The one year I caught a lot of balls, we were not very good. It’s a lot more fun to win.”
Miller said that before the start of this season, after new offensive coordinator Todd Haley had tipped his hand in the spring about making Miller a bigger part of his offense. And now Miller is closing in on that career-high number with 68 catches this season, as the Steelers struggle to break above .500.
I hadn’t thought about Miller’s preseason comment until this week as the The Great Ben and Todd Firestorm raged among the media visiting the locker room.
Miller, of course, had caught 6 passes in the first half last Sunday, but wasn’t targeted at all in the second half. The Steelers lost and Ben Roethlisberger blamed Haley for the lack of passes to Miller.
So there was Roethlisberger fending off the media mob on Wednesday while Miller was leisurely talking to two reporters. One asked Miller about said lack of second-half passes.
“It’s just the way games unfold,” Miller said. “I didn’t think twice about it, until everybody started making a big deal about it. That’s just the way the game works sometimes.”
Miller paused before adding, “I was thinking about it later,” he said. “When I was being targeted, we scored 10 points. We scored more points when I wasn’t being targeted. I don’t know what the big deal is.”
Whatever the big deal was, Heath could see it from across the room as Roethlisberger danced with the mob.
“I’ve always said that Heath is one of the most selfless teammates I’ve ever played with,” Roethlisberger was saying at one point. “I’ll ask Heath if he was open and he’ll tell me no. I’ll look at film and he was wide open.”
Miller didn’t hear all of that. We heard only “Heath this” and “Heath that,” which was enough for him to recoil in horror at the kind of pressure Roethlisberger was under. And this was only in the locker room.
“When I came to college, quarterback was a little bit overwhelming for me, trying to learn a pro-style offense,” Miller recalled of his earliest days at the University of Virginia.
“We had Bill Musgrave as the offensive coordinator, who had been in the league, came there, and now he’s back with the Vikings. So we were running a pro-style offense, and, yeah, my head was swimming. And there was a little bit of a quarterback controversy at the time, too. I realized then what a spotlight was on that position then. So I’m OK with kind of flying under the radar.”
He’s so far under the radar that few actually know his given birth name is Earl.
Of course, there was always the first day of school when the teacher would ask for “Earl Miller.”
“I would say, ‘Here,’” Miller said. “And all my friends would look around and say, ‘Who’s Earl Miller?’”
Now, only Roethlisberger calls him Earl, and he does it in the huddle, too.
“It just sounds normal to me now. I don’t think twice about it,” Miller said.
It just becomes a big deal – at least to the mob – when Roethlisberger doesn’t call Earl Miller’s number. But it’s just that after four consecutive games of 5 or more catches, we’ve all become accustomed to it. And we can’t help but want to see more.
Miller hasn’t accomplished that last statistical trick since – uh, oh – 2009.
That, of course, was the last time the Steelers stayed home for the playoffs.
“Don’t say that too loud,” Miller said, as he looked over at the mob and Roethlisberger.
“It sure would be nice to win more.”